Bay Ridge officials praise de Blasio’s ferry plan
Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement that his administration will be instituting a citywide ferry service in 2017 is creating a great deal of excitement in southern Brooklyn communities like Bay Ridge and Sunset Park, where officials praised the plan as a much-needed boost for commuters tired of taking the subway to work in Manhattan.
“Today, I applaud Mayor de Blasio and his team for working with me and my colleagues to bring back this valuable service – not only for my constituents – but for our entire city!” Councilmember Vincent Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said shortly after the mayor made his announcement in his State of the City Address at Baruch College on Tuesday.
Justin Brannan, Gentile’s communications director, told the Brooklyn Eagle via email that the city is in the process of “hammering out” the locations where the ferries will be making stops.
But two of the possibilities look intriguing to Bay Ridge and Sunset Park residents. A map of proposed ferry sites put out by the de Blasio Administration includes the 69th Street pier in Bay Ridge and the Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier on 58th Street in Sunset Park.
“I am very happy to see that Bay Ridge will once again have its very own ferry,” Gentile said. “Returning ferry service to Bay Ridge is not only a desirable and easy way to commute, but it is also a key component of any sensible comprehensive plan to relieve New York City’s choking traffic congestion. Bringing back the Bay Ridge ferry will be a game-changer for so many people and the ripple effect from this service will be felt throughout the entire city.”
Under the mayor’s plan, the new ferry service would run along the East River and would include existing East River routes and new landings in Southern Brooklyn, the Rockaways, Astoria, Soundview and the Lower East Side. The service will be supported by a $55 million capital commitment.
The mayor announced that the new ferry service would be priced the same as a MetroCard fare, “so ferries will be as affordable to everyday New Yorkers as our subways and buses.”
State Sen. Marty Golden (R-C-Bay Ridge-southwest Brooklyn) is also enthusiastic about the idea of a new ferry service, according John Quaglione, his deputy chief of staff.
“Senator Golden applauds the plan to establish permanent and expanded ferry service for New York City. We are confident that waterway travel will again be met with great enthusiasm by our residents, and it is our hope that we can see ferry service in Southwest Brooklyn sooner than 2017,” Quaglione told the Eagle.
The 58th Street pier accommodated a ferry service for nearly two years following Superstorm Sandy.
The ferry service, operated by Seastreak, made stops in the Rockaways and Sunset Park on its way to Manhattan. The service ended on Oct. 31, however. Gentile was among the elected officials who lobbied for its return.
“For residents of southwest Brooklyn, the R train has always been our transit lifeline. But when the MTA closed the tunnel to Manhattan to complete critical post-Sandy repairs, many commuters turned to the waterways and fell in love with the fast ferry. Indeed, the Brooklyn Army Terminal Ferry quickly became an essential fixture of southwest Brooklyn’s transportation network, whisking commuters from 58th Street to Wall Street in just 15 minutes!” Gentile said.
The 69th Street pier has a small eco-dock but does not have a ferry docking station.
The new citywide ferry service would bring a multitude of benefits, according to the mayor, who said that in addition to connecting residents to jobs in Manhattan, it would spur the development of new commercial corridors in the outer boroughs.
After the new ferry service is launched in 2017, there will be a second phase in which the service will be expanded to Coney Island, if additional funding is found.
Sunset Park residents said a return of ferry service at the 58th Street pier sounded like a good idea to them. Christine Clark, a member of Sunset Park Restoration, said the ferry would provide a viable transportation option for residents.
“I have felt for years that we should be utilizing our waterways much more than we currently do. Some of the routes are very exciting, such as connecting Manhattan to Coney Island and South Brooklyn to Red Hook so people can shop at Ikea and Fairway. I hope that it is for both weekends and weekdays and not just rush hours as I would love to use it on weekends with my school aged daughters,” she told the Eagle in an email.
But Clark also said she hoped the ferry schedule will accommodate busy commuters who need to get to work.
“Despite a great desire to do so, I didn’t take advantage of the ferry that departed from the Brooklyn Army Terminal during the Montague Tunnel reconstruction following Superstorm Sandy because the schedule was set in such a manner that I would have arrived at the 34th Street Manhattan pier at the same time that I was due to start work, which would have made me late every day. In order for this to work, a schedule that makes sense must be implemented,” she said.
The business community is also excited about a citywide ferry service, according to Carlo Scissura, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce.
“The increased transportation options along Brooklyn’s waterfront will continue to spur development and job growth in the area, as well as additional housing,” Scissura said.
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